The Capitalist Is Always Right

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The workers
are correct: capitalists are greedy, self-serving humans who only
think about themselves. There is no difference between a capitalist,
a despot, and a warlord. All three types care only about lining
their pockets with treasure.

However, capitalists
choose to acquire their treasure through voluntary trade, a method
inherently more moral than taxing or plundering the masses. And
through trade, millions of others can benefit in the process, not
just the capitalist. Because participating in trade is both voluntary
and beneficial to all parties involved, I would choose to live in
a world filled with capitalists rather than tyrannical despots and
bloodthirsty warlords.

When I talk
about the capitalist, I am talking about the individual who truly
finds a need unfulfilled and attempts to fulfill it; I am not talking
about the individual who uses political connections to gain market
share. For the ultimate treatment on how politics can be leveraged
for economic gain, read Overthrow
by Stephen Kinzer.

Because capitalists
choose to fulfill their own needs by fulfilling the needs of others,
they are compelled to care about their customers. As seen on the
signs of many businesses throughout America, "If we don’t take
care of our customers, someone else will." Caring about the
customer is how capitalists have increased the standard of living
worldwide.

Competition
makes the capitalist care about the customer even more. Without
competition, the customer’s needs might be served, but not optimally.
It’s true that some capitalists might continually improve their
level of quality and price without competition, but competition
sends a more correct signal to the capitalist on how to improve
the end product or service.

One of the
more integral aspects of the final product or service is labor.
Goods and services cannot be made without it. So shouldn't laborers
be paid as much as possible? No. For the capitalist, he shouldn't
pay anymore for labor than he has to. Remember, capitalists are
greedy; they want to make as much money as possible for themselves.
Only the capitalist may determine what he should do with the money
he earns. Maybe he'll use some of those savings to buy larger quantities
of raw materials in order to reduce the overall price for the consumer.
Maybe he'll rent out a storefront to compete in a new market. In
a world of scarce resources, every dollar a capitalist spends on
one thing means a dollar that can't be spent somewhere else. If
his employees will work for eight dollars and hour, why should he
pay them nine?

This last sentence
was not a rhetorical question. In a world of scarce resources, labor
too is in demand so the reason an employer would pay his employees
nine dollars an hour as opposed to eight is because his competition
is doing so. If a capitalist taps into a new market where the supply
of labor is very high, he doesn't have to appropriate as much capital
to labor as he does to other aspects of running the business. However,
if a capitalist chooses to compete in a market where labor is short
supply, he must offer high wages, good benefits and adequate working
conditions to attract and keep skilled employees.

So not only
is competition a customer's best friend, it's also the laborer's
best friend. Not only will competition improve a product or service
and lower its price, but it will also raise the wages of skilled
laborers and improve their working conditions. Capitalists do this
without any aid from the government; it's a natural byproduct of
doing business.

Even though
capitalists are quite adept at raising wages and the standard of
living, it hasn't stopped governments from trying to outdo the greedy
capitalist. Instead of putting the customer first, governments tend
to put a few chosen capitalists first (corporatism) or the worker
first (socialism).

Governments
are greedy and self-serving just like the capitalist. The government
official, after piecing together a spending program from your taxes
might very honestly say, "Look what I'm doing for you! Please
vote for me and I'll continue to do the same. That is, I'll take
a significant portion of your money and spend it in a way that will
get me a majority of votes. I'll also pass laws that keep the market
from optimizing, but that's okay because you believe these laws
benefit you and that the alternative spells disaster."

As you can
tell, yes, the government official cares about us, but only to the
extent that he gets our vote. In a society where free markets are
cherished, the way government officials would convince you he's
the best person for the job might be to say something like, "Vote
for me and I'll get out of the way so competition can move in. I
won't enact expensive spending programs because I won't take your
money from you. I'm basically leaving it up to you guys to create
a better society — self-determination and what not. Good luck with
that and remember, vote for me and I won't do a thing."

As it is today,
the masses still believe only a select group of individuals can
solve society's problems. This is reflected in each election cycle,
where if only Politician X is elected, good things will follow.
If only more people from Party A were voted in, they believe, the
country would be set on a path towards progress.

I agree with
the sentiment that society's problems can only be solved by a select
group of individuals. However, I don't believe this select group
of people is composed of well-meaning politicians, but rather greedy
capitalists. Both are self-serving, but while the politician cares
only about your vote, the capitalist cares about your actual needs
and wants. Furthermore, a politician only has to care towards the
end of the election cycle, whereas a capitalist has to care at every
moment a business transaction takes place. Ask yourself this question:
in a world of greedy self-serving individuals, is society better
off with more politicians or are we better off with more competing
capitalists?

A free market's
fruits in a particular sector of the economy produce the optimal
situation where product innovation increases dramatically, wages
increase proportionally, and prices lower substantially. After time,
the price, product and wages in a particular sector will plateau
and entrepreneurs will look elsewhere for unexploited vistas where
the cycle of better products, lower prices, and higher wages begin
anew.

So yes, a capitalist
only cares about himself, but by extension he must care for the
customer — lots of them, or someone else will. Part of that customer
care is hiring the right people, and to attract them, he must care
about their needs too or some other employer will.

If you want
the capitalist to care about the people, if you want the capitalist
to pay his employees higher wages, I have one piece of advice —
compete with him.

May
9, 2008

Todd Steinberg
[send him mail] works with
his family at a wholesale
teddy bear company
in Dallas. In his spare time he is furiously
working on his cartoon, "Don't Tell My Wife I'm a Cult Leader,"
which he plans to unleash on the Internet and beyond in 2008.

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